Nepal: National Interest and Diplomacy

In today’s world national interest is considered as the key concept of international relations.

All nations are at work ever for securing their national interest through diplomacy.

Economic diplomacy is the use of the full spectrum of economic tools of a state to achieve its national interest.

The art of diplomacy involves the presentation of goals and objectives of national interest in such a way as it can persuade others to accept these as just and rightful requests of nations in international cooperation.

To achieve Nepal’s national interest, Nepal government efforts alone may not provide the necessary basis since people’s support and initiatives as equally important.

Sincere efforts of Nepalese missions abroad are essential in taking up government’s policies and strategies for which professional and dedicated diplomats are a pre-requisite.

For economic diplomacy these missions can play an pro-active role for advising the government at the center, and play a catalyst role among private sector, NGOs, ‘friends of Nepal’ as well as NRN communities and associations.

Introduction:

National Interest:

National interest is aptly captured by French expression ‘Raison D’etre’ (basis of existence), whereby a country’s, whereby a country’s existence as it is dependent on its political system, economic, military, cultural and social under a governance compact agreed by the people themselves.

This concept is an important element in international relations, where pursuit of national interest in a clear and conceivable manner lays the foundation of a nation.

Today the concept of National interest is often associated with political realists who fail to differentiate their policies from idealistic policies or seek to inject morality into foreign policy or promote solutions that rely on multilateral institutions which might weaken the independence of the state.

National interest is considered as a key concept of international relations. On the one hand, state always tries to justify its actions on the basis of its national interest and on the other hand, the behavior of state is always conditioned and governed by its national interest.

Therefore it is essential to know the meaning and content of national interest.

The meaning of national interest is survival-the protection of physical political and cultural identity against encroachments by other nation-states- Mergenthau.

National interest, by itself, is a vague and ambiguous term that carries a meaning according to the context in which it is used.

Statesmen and policy makers have always used it in ways suitable to them and their objectives of justifying the actions of the state.

Hitler justified expansionist policies in the name “German National Interest”.

The US presidents have always justified their decisions to go in for the development of more and more destructive weapons in the interest of “US National Interest”.

China considers its border disputes with India and Soviet Union as imminent and unavoidable for securing the national interest of China.

The ambiguity that surrounds the concept of national hinders the process of formulating a universally accepted definition of national interest.

Several scholars have tried to define national interest by emphasizing the general, long term and continuing purpose for which a nation act, desires, values, and interest which state seeks to protect.

In nutshell it is said that “national interests” can as defined as claims objectives, goals, demands and interests which a nation always tries to preserve, protect, defend and secure in relations with other nations.

Sometime national interests are classified as primary interest, secondary interests, permanent interests, variable interests, general interests and specific interest.

No nation can compromise primary interest, secondary interest are quite vital for the existence of the state, permanent interests relate to constant long term interests of the state, variable interests are those which are considered vital for national good in a given set of circumstances, the general interests refer to those positive conditions which apply specified fields such as economic trade diplomatic relations etc., whereas specific interests are the logical outgrowth of the general interests and those are defined in terms of time and space.

Besides these six categories of national interests T.W. Robinsons refers to three international interests, identical, complementary and conflicting.

Identical interests are those which are common to a large number of states, complementary refers to those which though not identical can form the basis of agreement on some specific issues, conflicting are those which are neither complementary nor identical.

Diplomacy:

Diplomacy is derived from ancient Greek ‘diploma’ referring to the use of folded document that contained privilege, later in the French Version it come to be known as diplomat (diplomatist) denoting persons authorized to negotiate on behalf of a state.

Diplomacy “as the mechanism of representation, communication and negotiation through which states and other international actors conduct their business (Jan Melissen).

Diplomacy is a major tool of foreign policy and international relations.

It is the first line of defence and peaceful means of maintaining states sovereignty.

Traditional diplomacy focuses on stability through peace whereas modern diplomacy on peace and prosperity.

Modern diplomacy is a combination of political, economic, cultural diplomacy, and focuses and priority is given on economic diplomacy.

Economic diplomacy is the use of the full spectrum of economic tools of a state to achieve its national interests.

The scope of economic diplomacy can encompass all of main international activities of state including but not limited to, policy decisions designed to influence such as exports, imports, investment, lending aid, free trade agreement etc. (Wikipedia)

How to Secure National Interest:

To achieve national interest and goals following techniques have been used by different nations.

Diplomacy:

Diplomacy as mentioned above is a universally accepted means for securing national interests.

It is through diplomacy that the foreign policy of a nation travels to other nations.

It always works hard to secure the goals of nation’s interests.

Diplomats are always in front line to establish contracts with the decisions makers and diplomats of other nations and conduct negotiations for achieving the derived goals and objectives of national interests of nation.

The art of diplomacy involves the presentation of the goals and objectives of national interest in such a way as can persuade others to accept these as just and rightful requests of the nation in international cooperation.

Diplomats, subject to their inherent authority of representing a strong and powerful nation, use persuasion and threats, rewards and threats of denial of rewards as a means of exercising power and securing goals of national interests as defined by foreign policy of their nations.

Diplomatic negotiation is such a skill which constitutes the most effective means of conflict resolution and for reconciling the divergent interests of the state.

Through mutual give and take, accommodation and reconciliation, diplomacy tries to secure the desired goals and objectives of national interest.

Although Diplomacy is a best instrument of securing national interest but not all the objectives and goals of national interest can be necessarily secured through diplomacy.

Propaganda:

Another important method of securing national interest is propaganda.

Propaganda is the art of salesmanship.

It is the art of convincing other about the justness of the goals and objective which are desired to be secured. ‘Propaganda is a systematic attempt to affect minds, emotions and actions of a given group for specific public purpose’ (Frankel).

The revolutionary development of the means of communication such as internet, social media, facebook etc. has increased the scope of propaganda as a means of securing support for the goals of national interest.

Economic Means:

The advanced, rich and developed country use economic aid and loans as the means for securing their interests in international relations.

The wide gap between haves and have nots provides a big opportunity to the rich nations for promoting their interest vis-à-vis the poor nations.

Dependency of the poor and under developed nations upon rich and developed nations for import of industrial goods, technological knowhow, foreign aid etc. has been responsible for strengthening the role of economic instruments of foreign policy.

In this era of globalizations efficient conduct of international economic relations has emerged as a key means of national interests.

Coercive Means:

The role of power (economic and defence) in international relations is a recognized fact.

The action of super-power nations indicates that, it is an unwritten law of international relations that the nations can use force for securing their national interest.

Intervention, embargoes boycotts, reprisals, retention, retaliation, reverence of relations etc. are popular coercive means which can be used by a nation to force others to accept a particular course of behavior.

Now-a-days, nations fully realize the importance of peaceful means of conflict resolution, like negotiations and diplomacy as the ideal methods for promoting their national interests.

At the same time powerful nations also continue to use coercive means and military power to securing its desire, goals and objectives.

While formulating the goals and objectives of national interest, all nations must make honest attempts to make these compatible with the international interests of peace, security, environmental protection, protection of human rights and sustainable development.

Peaceful coexistence and purposeful mutual cooperation for the development, are common and shared interests of all the nations.

Therefore while promoting national interests, the nations must try to protect and promote common interests in the larger interests of the international community and also it is essential for every nation to formulate its foreign policy and conduct its relations with other nations on the basis of its interests, as interpreted and defined in harmony with the commons of the humankind.

Alliances and Treaties:

For securing common interest of two or more states, alliances and treaties are used.

This device is mostly used for securing identical and complementary interests. However, even conflictual interests may lead to alliances and treaties with likeminded state against the common rivals or opponents.

Nepal’s National Interests:

According to the constitution of Nepal, 2072 BS (2015) article 5.1 the national interest of Nepal is “safeguarding of the freedom, sovereignty, territorial integrity, nationality, independence and dignity of Nepal, the rights of the Nepalese people, border security, economic well-being and prosperity shall be the basic elements of the national interest of Nepal”.

Accepted fact is that ‘national interest should be at center of country’s foreign policy’.

There should be a common understanding among all political parties, if it is not possible, major political parties should forge consensus before formulating a long term foreign policy of the country.

Long terms foreign policy objectives should be able to serve the national interest for the development and prosperity of the country.

In this regard economic diplomacy is the best tool of a state to achieve its national interest.

The main purpose of economic diplomacy is to mobilizing resources for development, promoting trade (basically export base), exploring markets, attracting foreign direct investment in national priority areas, promoting culture, tourism, facilitating foreign employment and also mobilizing diaspora resources.

To conduct economic diplomacy efficiently and effectively; missions aboard have to be equipped with skilled and qualified manpower including good negotiator and business friendly.

They should be regularly provided with policy papers, acts, and other relevant materials which is useful for the development of economic diplomacy.

Government also need to enhance professionalism and capacity of abroad staff.

It is also necessary to recruit local staff with local language capability and lawyers where missions have to deal with legal issues.

To achieve Nepal’s national interest, Nepal government efforts alone may not provide the necessary basis since people’s support and initiatives as equally important.

Sincere efforts of Nepalese missions abroad are essential in taking up government’s policies and strategies for which professional and dedicated diplomats are a pre-requisite.

For economic diplomacy these missions can play a pro-active role for advising the government at the center, and play a catalyst role among private sector, NGOs, ‘friends of Nepal’ as well as NRN communities and associations.

Support from friendly countries and multilateral organizations is vital.

Partnership and support of private sector is equally important.

The private sector accounts for more than 70 percent of total investment in Nepal and takes the lead in almost all the activities related to the external sector of the economy.

For the effective participation of private sector, existing institutional mechanism of government should be enlarged for enabling a regular dialogue with private sector as well as missions abroad.

Assistance in developing networking with the private sector institutions in host counties is also equally important. Government should create friendly investment attractive opportunities for Nepalese diaspora to engage in economic development and public diplomacy.

If NRN community were convinced, they can be not only the source of large remittance but also can promote exports in their respective host countries of residence and mobilize investors for direct investment in Nepal.

All these activities are bound to enhance business, create jobs and transfer knowledge and skills to Nepal.

Similarly networking with “friends of Nepal” who are influential and have affection for Nepal, could support the cause of Nepal.

Such person may include parliamentarians, trustees, reputed businessman, writers, singers etc.

Nepalese missions abroad should be active and efficient to establish a caucus of those personalities and engage them regularly.

In conclusion, it can be claimed that national interest is considered as key concept of international relations.

All nations are regularly engaged in the process of securing the goals of their national interest through economic diplomacy, among others.

Diplomats are always in front line to establish contracts with the decisions makers and diplomats of other countries and conduct negotiations for achieving the desired goals and objectives of national interests of their nation.

To achieve targets and goals, government’s missions abroad alone is not adequate; support from bilateral, multilateral institutions as well as private sector are vital.

Needless to state that Nepalese missions abroad need to be staffed with competent, qualified and dedicated civil servants in the performance their duties and responsibilities that entail more that a 10-5 job.

# We are highly indebted to the distinguished author Hemant Kharel-the President of the Nepal Council of World Affairs.
# Text courtesy: Special thanks to the Nepal Council of World Affairs Annual Journal( 2020) and the entire editorial board: Ed. Upadhyaya.

# Our contact email address is: editor.telegraphnepal@gmail.com

References:

Baranay, (2009). Modern Economic Diplomacy.
Jyler, (2007). Think Tank Diplomacy.
Melissen, Jan. Innovation in Diplomatic Practice.
Mergenthau. (1987). Nations States.
National Interest. Wikipedia.org. Economic Diplomacy.
Nepal Council of World Affairs, Annual Journals.
National Interest: Meaning, components and Methods (your article liberary.com)
Roberts, Sir Ivor. (2016). Satow’s Diplomatic Practice
Diplomatic Practice.
World Bank Report, 2017.

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